I'm a sucker for college football tradition, and no one has more of it than Notre Dame, who comes to Husky Stadium on Saturday.
Here is some of what the Irish is bringing with them: 11 recognized national championships, 21 seasons when awarded the national championship by at least one selector, seven Heisman Trophy winners, 12 unbeaten and untied seasons, 42 College Football Hall of Fame players, five Hall of Fame coaches, 10 players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 181 first-team All-Americans, 61 NFL first-round draft picks and 28 bowl appearances. Notre Dame has 928 all-time victories and an all-time winning percentage of .738, both second-highest (behind Michigan) in college football history.
Also, the ghosts of:
Knute Rockne, the Hall of Fame coach who made the iconic "Win one for the Gipper" speech, and who died in a plane crash on March 31, 1931;
George Gipp, the great player immortalized by Rockne who died of a throat infection Dec. 12, 1920, at the age of 25; and Harry Stuhldreher, Jim Crowley, Don Miller and Elmer Layden, the famed Four Horsemen.
Last, but certainly not least, an alumni band that will play the "Victory March," the great fight song originally written in 1908.
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In a season with a sadly small number of thrills, those golden helmets running onto the field on a blue, grey October day is something worth soaking in.
Here is today's game preview and this brief highlights box:
NOTRE DAME (4-2)
AT WASHINGTON (0-6,04)
Kickoff: 5 p.m., Husky Stadium
Television: ESPN2. Radio: 950-AM.
The series: Notre Dame leads the series, 6-0. The teams first met in 1948. The most recent meeting came in 2005, a 36-17 Irish win at Husky Stadium.
What to watch: Some fans will be watching the interactions of UW coach Tyrone Willingham and ND coach Charlie Weis, although they have downplayed their relevance all week. The Irish are a heavily pass-oriented team. They use a pro set and sometimes line up with the quarterback alone in the backfield. The UW defense might respond with more of its nickel package. Through six games, Notre Dame has seven interceptions and seven fumble recoveries. The Irish kickoff return team ranks second nationally allowing 16.4 yards per return. Both teams use young players: 12 true freshmen have played for the Huskies, nine for the Irish. Eighteen of Notre Dame's 21 touchdowns have been scored by underclassmen.
What's at stake: A loss eliminates the Huskies from bowl consideration and dooms them to their fifth straight losing season. UW is looking for its first win against Notre Dame. An Irish win would move them to within one game of bowl eligibility after falling short last season. However, Notre Dame's hopes reach considerably beyond mere bowl eligibility and all the way to the kind of major bowl bid they once took for granted.